FRANCIS PAUL SIAH
COMMENT Anifah Aman is no political greenhorn. He was a three-term parliamentarian and has served as foreign minister for 11 years.
He is the younger of the Aman brothers, his elder and only sibling, Musa, was Sabah’s long-serving chief minister from 2003 until GE14 in 2018.
Anifah, 66, is an astute reader of Sabah politics. He understands political realities on the ground. Surely, he must have valid reasons not to contest the Kimanis by-election despite being the incumbent.
Why? Because Anifah knows it would be an uphill task to retain the seat. He was smart enough to give up the battle, for now, to fight the war another day.
I think I could see clearly where Anifah was coming from and I believe he has made the right decision.
Why go and fight a meaningless battle when there is little chance of victory? Smart move, Anifah.
Although Anifah (above) did not say it, I believe he is aware that Kimanis will be “manis” (sweet) for Parti Warisan Sabah, not Umno, this time.
No, it would not be right to put words into his mouth. So, let us take that statement as coming from me, although I believe Anifah will probably agree with me.
Now the battle lines are clear – the Kimanis by-election is a straight fight between Warisan’s Karim Bujang and BN/Umno’s Mohamad Alamin.
It is not surprising that other parties wisely decided not to enter the fray. Winning a seat mid-way in a five-year term can be quite meaningless to the opposition parties. It will still be status quo for them, irrespective of the outcome.
Both Karim and Mohamad are well-known personalities in Kimanis, being former Bongsawan state representatives.
Personality-wise, Karim, 67, and Mohamad, 48, are evenly matched as both men are said to be popular and conscientious politicians although Karim is the veteran of the two. There is nothing much to separate them.
However, the great difference in this electoral battle is their party affiliation.
Karim has a distinct advantage contesting on the Warisan ticket.
Warisan is the government in Sabah and an ally of Pakatan Harapan which is the federal government.
Although Harapan has been publicly vilified for its many missteps over the past 20 months, Warisan has not been doing too badly as the state government.
Chief Minister Shafie Apdal is not actually a controversial figure and is known to tread on the side of caution and reason in most of his political dealings.
In his 20 months as Sabah’s chief executive, Shafie has carefully avoided making unpopular decisions and has not stepped on too many toes in the process.
To his credit, the chief minister has never harped on the racial and religion card that has torn the nation asunder.
As a Sabahan, Shafie knows how to handle such delicate matters in his homeland and he has done very well on that front.
Over the past month alone, the chief minister triumphed among Sabahans when he declared December 24 an extra Christmas holiday and announced that the teaching of Jawi Khat is optional in Sabah.
Vernacular schools in Sabah will not be forced to introduce Jawi as a subject, the chief minister said.
The only issue working against Shafie in recent times is his proposal to implement the Sabah Temporary Pass (PSS), which the opposition fears will worsen the influx of illegal immigrants into Sabah.
Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) president Maximus Johnity Ongkili was right to insist that the candidate must fulfil certain conditions in order to obtain PBS’ support in the Jan 18 contest.
Among the conditions the candidate must stand firm against illegal immigrants and intruders in Sabah.
“The candidate must be a vocal fighter and defender of Sabah’s rights, as enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
“The candidate must reject the government’s proposal to implement the Sabah Temporary Pass (PSS),” Maximus (above) added.
I think the PBS president spoke for the other Sabah opposition parties like Star, SAPP and LDP whose leaders have also been outspoken on those issues.
I contacted a Sabah NGO activist last week to gather his thoughts on the by-election.
He agreed with me that Umno would face a tough time to wrest the seat.
“When a big name like Anifah Aman is unprepared to contest, what chance does Mohamad Alamin has”, my friend commented.
He also pointed out that Sabah Umno is not what it used to be. The party suffered a huge blow after scores of its MPs and state assemblypersons left to join Bersatu soon after GE14.
The new Sabah Umno chairman, Bung Moktar Radin, has yet to make the cut as a state leader and his personal reputation is also left wanting due to his corruption trial.
That is a great setback for Umno in this by-election, my friend opined.
In the Tanjung Piai by-election last November, I rooted for BN/MCA and for good reasons. It was to teach Pakatan Harapan a lesson and the voters answered the call of many, including me.
I suppose Kimanis will not be as exciting or perceived to be as crucial as Tanjung Piai because not much is at stake here.
A Warisan or Umno victory is probably a mere consolation prize for either side.
All things considered, I foresee sweet victory for Warisan. On Jan 18, Kimanis will be ‘manis’ for Shafie Apdal and his party, not Umno.
Sabah is an unlikely place for Umno to bolster its pride and ego; and certainly not in Kimanis.
FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at email@example.com.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.